Friday, May 1, 2009

Story #5-March for Rights

As we have gone out to tell about our experience in Liberia, we have realized that we can only give a glimpse of what we experienced; a 20 minute summary of an amazing 10 week stay. There are some stories that we are not able to tell during our presentations, but that have impacted our lives. One such story is the march to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights and Dignity of People with Disabilities.

Like most of our time in Liberia, our involvement in the march was happenstance. All of a sudden a van pulled up to load up students to go to the march. Naturally, the van became packed, so we opted to come on the next round. When we arrived downtown, the beginning of the march, we joined hundreds of other marchers. There were representatives of the blind organization, persons with physical disabilities, deaf students from several schools, and my husband and I. As far as we could tell, we were the only non-Liberians, and as we walked hand-in hand with our brothers and sisters, onlookers often took a double-take.

After a short discussion with the local police, we were allowed to begin our march. We were led by the president of the National Union of Organizations of the Disabled, Mr. Kota, chanting encouraging words. We walked a few miles through the city, and arrived in front of the legislature building. As a large group, we were met with U.N. guards, and only a select few were allowed to enter the gates to propose the U.N. convention. During this time, I was able to sit and visit with students from various schools.

While it was extremely hot and we were tired, I could not get over the fact that we were able to be a part of this landmark movement. We were able to show our solidarity in the purest form, standing right next to the people who deserve the support of the government and the Liberian people. We didn't go in there telling them they had to do this, we didn't lead just because we were Americans. The Liberian people invited us along, leading us. We simply followed, showing them our support. While the government gave no real response, simply accepting our petition, we were hopeful that this was the beginning of a national movement to accept persons with disabilities, and give them the rights that they truly deserve. We hope to hear about more marches in the future, and will stand by them, hand in hand, in spirit.

As you can see, the students were kind enough to hold an umbrella over me as I husband was not as fortunate. :)